18.533 blogging and v(l)ogging

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2005 09:48:00 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 533.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2005 09:38:30 +0000
         From: "William Cole" <bill_at_donutage.org>
         Subject: Re: 18.480 blogging and v(l)ogging

Perhaps it is foolhardy to reopen controversy two weeks after the fact.

On Mon, 10 Jan 2005 07:52:19 +0000, Humanist Discussion Group (by way of
Willard McCarty) wrote:

> Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2005 07:45:53 +0000
> From: Norman Hinton <hinton_at_springnet1.com>
> >
> >A textbook case of media essentialism. By this logic I wouldn't read
> >any books because some are worthless or trivial.
>People have referred me to blog after blog, and I find them self-serving,
>unstructured, and boring. Sorry. After a year or so you tend to quit
>trying. This doesn't seem to be the case with books.

All I can say is that people have referred you to the wrong blogs. I will
grant the "unstructured" label, but I would say that it is one of the
attractions of blogging (especially for the bloggers themselves) that one
is free from the imperative to be unified, focused, and rigorously
structured in the manner of, for example, a scholarly journal article.
One could go further and argue that the absence of explicit structure
allows for the discernment of emergent structure. Few, if any, blogs are
completely random; they reflect the interests, however disparate, of the
author, that is, the 'structure' of the author's thought. In addition,
many blogs employ some sort of categorizing function that separates the
possibly chaotic flow of the main blog into different "channels" if you
will, which might be read as more coherent blogs in their own right.

As for self-serving and boring, no doubt many blogs deserve one or both
of those epithets (the same could be said for books, films, and popular
music). But there are a good number that do not. Jill Walker <http://
huminf.uib.no/~jill/>, Mark Bernstein <http://markbernstein.org/>,
Matthew Kirschenbaum <http://www.otal.umd.edu/~mgk/blog/>, and Adrian
Miles <http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/vog/vlog/>, to name a few from my
personal "essentials" list, are serious, I dare say, important scholars/
researchers in the overlapping fields of hypertext, digital media and
electronic textuality, and I have found their blogs to be significant
stimuli for my own thoughts on those subjects. Excellence in blogging is
by no means restricted to new media theorists, though: Jeff Angus's
Management by Baseball <http://cmdr-scott.blogspot.com/> provides
insightful commentary on management and corporate culture through the
lens of current events in baseball; Michael Feldman's Dowbrigade News
<http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/dowbrigade/> provides satiric commentary on
news and politics; currently in hibernation, during the run-up to the
presidential election Andrew Tanenbaum's Electoral Vote Predictor <http:/
/www.electoral-vote.com/> converted aggregated polling data into a daily
electoral map, and in the process offered much insight into polling
methodologies and the statistical techniques that go into the polling
process; the now-defunct Invisible Adjunct <http://invisibleadjunct.com/>
offered rigorous yet also humane critique of the academic labor system;
and if nothing else, there is a Pepys' Diary <http://www.pepysdiary.com/>,
a day-by-day transcription of Samuel Pepys's diaries into blog format
(as of today, it has reached January 27, 1661/62).

The above are personal, subjective picks of blogs *I* find interesting
enough to come back to day after day. Others may well find some or all of
these candidates less than compelling. But I hope that in the range of
examples offered, one can at least see a refutation of the popular
complaint that blogs are hopelessly self-absorbed ramblings of no
interest to anyone beyond the author and perhaps his or her immediate
friends or family. There is a great deal of serious, intelligent,
creative, and informative writing being done by bloggers, and I think
that body of work deserves something more than a blanket dismissal.


Bill Cole

William Cole <w.cole_at_moreheadstate.edu>
Instructional Technology Director, College of Education
Morehead State University
407 Ginger Hall || (606) 783-9326
Received on Fri Jan 28 2005 - 04:56:44 EST

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